eight years ago I met a man…

Eight years ago this week…

… at a conference in Chicago, I was standing at a cocktail table chatting with some female colleagues when a man approached our table.

I noticed as he walked toward us. He was tall, urbane and curls spilled off the top of his head. Before he had even stopped or uttered a greeting, a voice in my head said, “So that’s the man I would have met if I’d moved to Chicago.”

Let’s stop for a moment to ponder this:  I knew nothing about this man. He wasn’t my usual type. I didn’t know whether he lived in Chicago (after all, it was an international conference). While I’d contemplated moving there a few times, there was nothing to suggest I’d have met him if I had. So it seemed a bit brazen of my brain to pop off with such a bold proclamation. And, of course, the rational voice in my head was appalled — it jumped in with a correction:  “That’s the kind of man I might have met if I’d moved to Chicago.” It’s strange to have an internal dialogue like this — unusual enough that I still remember it.

I generally give my subconscious mind quite a bit of credit. I think it cues me in to some synchronicities and connections that I might otherwise miss. So it seemed to me that the very act of noticing this man might suggest some energetic or karmic connection. Perhaps there was a lesson or exchange to come of our having met — or the potential for something more. I prefer not to jump to conclusions about what it might mean, but it happens rarely enough so that I’ve learned to pay attention.

Anyway…he was friendly and engaging, and he worked for the conference organizer. He wore a ring. After a spell, we all decided to move on to our various evening plans. As I stepped from behind the skirted high top, my six-month pregnant belly emerged into view. The man’s jaw dropped, although I couldn’t have known why it was such a shock to him that I was pregnant. But he had clearly noticed me, too.

At a later moment in the conference, we crossed paths again. I was being introduced to someone and he suddenly appeared, remarking, “…and isn’t she the cutest pregnant woman you’ve ever seen?!” A woman never forgets a compliment like that.

The conference ended and we each went back to our happy lives — me to my husband, daughter and soon-to-be-born son; him to his wife.

Chi-guy would call my office every so many months, looking for a quote for an article he was writing, sometimes for a topic so completely irrelevant to my industry that I knew it was merely an excuse. His voice was an effeminate tenor with a hint of resonance; pleasant, but not manly.

And then I did a big, groundbreaking deal, the sort that gets national attention. So I called him, sent him the media materials, asked him to write about it and landed an invitation to speak at the annual conference. It was now 2005, two years after we’d first met.

When I arrived at the conference, my tall, urbane, curly-haired friend was nowhere to be found. I kept anticipating that I’d see him — or that he might make a point of seeking me out. Finally, one of his colleagues told me that he’d been hoping to introduce me before I went on stage, but he had the flu, and I was unlikely to see him at all. So it was a surprise when Chi-guy arrived ten minutes before my presentation. And I secretly thought that he must have been awfully motivated to see me, to show up when not even his colleagues expected him. I was flattered.

The next day, he introduced me to his wife and confided that they were expecting.

Chi-guy and I stayed loosely in touch over the next few years, emailing once or twice a year, if that. Eventually, we found each other on Facebook, which made it easier to stay connected, and I would ask him for restaurant recommendations when I traveled to Chicago; we exchanged a few pleasantries about parenting or books, but never managed to connect in person.

And that was the extent of our very loose mutual admiration…until nine months ago

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